By editorial board • 

Infusion of rigor pays big dividend for pupils

Yamhill-Carlton Intermediate School earned some of the state’s top marks in this year’s new Smarter Balanced testing, and it was no accident.

Principal Michael Fisher and his staff embraced the rigorous new Common Core standards and applied them with contagious enthusiasm. No one wavered, held back or sounded a discordant note.

The faculty displayed unshakable confidence its charges would succeed in mastering the new higher standards. Blessed with teachers who believed in them, the grades 5-8 students came to believe in themselves in turn.

Brimming with new-found confidence, they didn’t look for ways to weasel out of tests that would tell the tale in black and white. They relished the opportunity to test themselves against their counterparts in the state’s other 189 middle or intermediate schools.

When teachers unite in establishing high expectations and displaying confidence, those expectations will be met, positive results are almost sure to follow. And that’s what happened here.

YCIS’s fifth graders ranked 13th in language arts and 11th in math and science. Its sixth graders ranked 9th in language arts and math, and its eighth graders ranked 29th in language arts.

Fisher told the News-Register, “Kids will tell you the teachers pushed them to think deeply, to understand, to explain.” And that certainly proved the case.

Sixth-grader Katie Slater said, “The teachers really get you engaged, and that helps you learn.”

Sixth-grader Connor Frost said the teachers believed the students could do the work, so pushed them hard. “Teachers here LOVE effort, almost more than they love answers,” he said.

When Fisher walked into one of the classrooms where Smarter Balanced testing was underway, he asked students, “How’s it going?”

They responded, “It’s fun!” They were ready and they realized it.

The McMinnville School District has taken the same tack with like success.

It has challenged its students with cutting edge math and science programs, an array of advanced placement courses and college-level curriculum qualifying for early college credit. It has established innovative career exploration pathways, nurtured robotics teams, staged STEM camps and created a special Engineering and Science Academy.

As a result, it has had principals at all three levels earn Principal of the Year honors, and its superintendent win Superintendent of the Year honors. It has come to lead the state in a number of categories, including development of state-designated model schools and completion of early college credits by high schoolers.  

You don’t get more out of students by expecting less, demanding less and letting fear of failure lead you to duck accountability. You get more out of them by expecting more, demanding more and seizing opportunities to prove it on an even playing field.

Private religious and college preparatory schools have been reaping the benefits of rigorous expectations, standards and accountability for many years. So have public schools in other parts of the world. It’s time American public schools took up the challenge, and we applaud locals for leading the way.

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